Michigan Legal Milestones

The Bar Association of the State of Michigan erected 40 plaques at locations throughout the state commemorating figures, court decisions, events or sites that are important for the state’s or the nation’s legal history.  These are listed below. 
There is a date indicating the time of the event , person or site and another date indicating when the plaque was installed by the Michigan Bar Association.  There is also a yes/no indicating whether there is a description on the www.Detroit1701 website followed by a very brief description of the ruling, person or location.   For additional descriptions of the milestones, see: http://michbar.org/programs/milestones.

 1. Dr. Ossian Sweet Trial: 1925/1986 / Yes

Dr. Ossian Sweet and his family, African-Americans, purchased and then moved into a home on Garland Street on Detroit’s East Side.  On his second night there, a crowd surrounded Dr. Sweet's home and then began stoning it, apparently with the intent of destroying it and, perhaps, killing or maiming the occupants.  Eventually, a shot rang out from the home killing one man.  The police enter the home, arrested Dr. Sweet and his family members and the prosecutor charged them with murder.  A first trial resulted in a hung jury.  In a second trial, Dr. Sweet was acquitted, thereby upholding the right of an African American to defend their property.  This was the most famous civil rights trial of the 1920s.  Future Supreme Court justice Murphy presided and Clarence Darrow served as counsel for the defendant.
Plaque posted inside the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in downtown Detroit.

2. Baseball’s Reserve Clause:  1914/1986 / No

From the earliest days of professional baseball, players were required to sign a contract which mandated that the player could only play for the team that owned his contract unless his contract were sold.  Philadelphia Phillies catcher, William Killifer who was born in Bloomingdale Michigan and lived in Paw Paw, challenged such contracts but a Michigan court upheld the Reserve Clause setting a precedent that the Supreme Court of the United States followed until the 1970s.  Mr. Killifer spent thirteen years catching for four major league teams with a lifetime batting average of .238 and, in that dead ball era, a total of four home runs.
Plaque posted inside Old Kent Baseball Park in Comstock Park, Michigan

3. Cooley Law Office: 1848/1986 / No

Thomas Cooley was, perhaps, the state’s most prominent lawyer in the mid Nineteenth Century.  He was the first to systematically compile the statues of the state in the 1850s and then, for years, served as the official reporter of Michigan Supreme Court Decisions.  He taught law at the University of Michigan for a quarter century and was a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court from 1864 to 1884.
Plaque is on the building at the site of his 1848 offices, currently the home of radio station WABJ in Adrian.

4. The Roosevelt-Newett Libel Trial   1913/1986 / No

George Newett, publisher of the Iron Ore newspaper, frequently denounced former president Theodore Roosevelt and published stories that asserted that Roosevelt consumed far too much alcohol.  President Roosevelt sued and charged libel raising questions about the freedom of the press.  The jury found in favor of the former president but awarded only six cents in damages.
Plaque post insider the Marquette County Court House in Marquette

5. Michigan’s First Chief Justice: William Fletcher: 1836/1987 / No

This plaque commemorates the accomplishments and civic achievements of the Michigan’s first chief justice.
Plaque located in Felch Park at the corner of Fletcher and Washington near the Power’s Center in Ann Arbor

6. Sojourner Truth:  1858/1987 / No

Sojourner Truth, who lived in Battle Creek from 1856 to 1883, was one of the nation’s leading abolitionists and accomplished the achievement of going into the South numerous times to transport slaves to freedom in Canada or areas of the North presumed to be safe.  She was also one of the first to forcefully advocate for the rights of women, doing so famously at the 1858 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron.
Plaque located in the Calhoun County Justice Center in Battle Creek

7. Augustus B. Woodward:  1805/1988 / No

This plaque commemorates the accomplishments of Augustus Woodward who was appointed by President Thomas Jefferson to be the first federal judge in Michigan Territory in 1805.  Woodward strongly promoted the development of Detroit.
Plaque is in the Millender Center Atrium of the Omni Hotel near the up escalator not far from the corner of Randolph and East Jefferson in downtown Detroit.

8. Access to Public Water:  1925/1988 / No

Gideon Gerhardt waded into the Pine River to fish in 1925.  Frank Collins, who owned the property along the river, had him arrested for trespassing.  The local court found for Mr. Collins but the Michigan Supreme Court found for Mr. Gerhardt thereby upholding the right to fish in flowing rivers.
Located at the Peterson Landing canoe access near the intersection of M37 and M55  along the Pine River west of Cadillac.

9. Ten Hours or No Sawdust:  /1988 / No

In 1885, the state legislature enacted a ten hour employment law but many lumber mill owners continued to insist upon 11- or 12-hour work days contending that the legislature had no authority to mandate hours of employment.  Many workers went on strike using the slogan “Ten Hours or No Sawdust.” This is one of many late Nineteenth Century strikes in Michigan.  In the next century, courts eventually approved laws limiting the hours of labor.
Located outside in the Morley Plaza in Saginaw

10. 1961-1962 Constitutional Convention:  1961-62/1989 / No

Michigan’s constitution requires that, every twenty years, Michigan voters must decide whether or not to call a constitutional convention.  The most recent convention which drew up the state’s current constitution took place in 1961 and 1962.
Plaque is located in Constitution Hall in Lansing

11. Eva Beles’ Vote: 1888/1990 / No

Eva Beles voted in a Flint School Board election noting that she met the criteria; that is, she was  a resident of the Flint school district and a property owner.  County officials refused to count her vote because she was a woman.  She sued and the Michigan Supreme Court upheld her right to vote.  This was an early Michigan decision upholding women’s suffrage.  The state constitution was amended in 1918 to guarantee women the right to vote.
Sited inside the Genesee County Court House in Flint

12. One Person-One Vote:  1962/1990 / No

August Scholle, then president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, was concerned, in 1958, that his state senate election district in Oakland County had 12 times as many residents as senate districts in rural areas.  The Michigan Supreme Court originally turned down his appeal but, in 1962, upheld his claim leading, eventually, to electoral districts with similar populations.
Located outside in the south plaza of the Oakland County Court House in Pontiac

13. Improving Justice: 1911/1991 / No

Herbert Harley and Charles Ruggles, residents of Manistee, desired to remedy flaws in the American justice system.  The organized the American Judicature Society in 1913 to promote the efficient and accurate administration of justice throughout the United States.
Plaque is located at the Manistee City Marina on River Street in Manistee

14. The King’s Grant: 1750/1991 / No

In 1750, French King Louis XV granted Louis de Repenigny and Captain Louis de Bonne 214,000 acres of land near Sault Ste. Marie.  In return, they had to build a fort at the site to serve the French military.  This was the largest privately owned tract of land in what is now Michigan.  The original descendants lost interest in the land.  After the canal at the Sault was completed in 1855, the land became valuable.  Descendants of de Bonne living in Ireland and descendants of de Rapentigny living in the Caribbean asserted their ownership rights.  A district federal court in Michigan upheld their claim but this was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 1867.  This was, presumably, the final litigation about land in Michigan conveyed by the French crown.
Plaque is located in Brady Park along Water Street in Sault Ste. Marie

15. The Uninvited Ear:  1971/1991 / Yes

In the late 1960s, there were many anti-government groups promoted by individuals who believed that radical change was necessary, even if it took great violence to accomplish that.  The FBI recorded 1523 bombings of government offices, buildings and structures in the later years of that decade.  In Ann Arbor, a White Panther Party was founded by Pun Plamondon, John Sinclair and John Forest.  They were not a white surpremacy organization.  Rather they imitated the Black Panther Party by calling for radial changes in the governance of this country, changes that might require violence.  The CIA office in Ann Arbor was bombed.  Governmental officials concluded that it was the work on the White Panther Party.  Pun Plamondon went into hiding but was eventually caught for littering and held for three years before he was brought to trial in the Eastern District Court for Michigan with Judge Damon Keith presiding.  The government presented evidence but the defense attorney argued that the real evidence that the government had was gathered by wiretaps carried out by CIA officials in Ann Arbor, presumably without a court order.  The federal government argued that, for national security reasons they would not reveal the contents of the wiretaps.  Judge Keith insisted that evidence from those wiretaps be presented if the trial against Plamondon were to continue.  The Department of Justice decided to assert their right to keep secret national security information obtained from wiretaps conducted without a warrant.  They argued that Judge Keith did not have right to demand the release of such information.  The case went to the Supreme Court.  They ruled in favor of Judge Keith.  In other words, the Fourth Amendment right to see the evidence against you includes the right to see illegally obtained evidence.  In a complex manner, this case contributed indirectly, but strongly, in the resignation of Richard Nixon from the office of the presidency.
Plaque is located in the lobby of the Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit

16. Laughing Whitefish: 1889/1992 / No

In 1845, staff from the Jackson Iron Company were searching for copper deposits in the Negaunee area.  They recruited Marji Gesick, a Chippewa chief, in their search and he led them to a deposit about three miles from Negaunee.  In return, they gave him shares of stock in the firm.  Years after he died, his daughter, Charlotte Kawbawgam found the stock certificate and put forth her ownership right.  Michigan law at this time prohibited bigamy but the customs of the Chippewa did not.  Officials from the Jackson Iron Company recognized she had the stock ownership certificate denied her right to inherit the stock since she was the daughter of one of Marji Gesick’s three concurrent wives.  The Michigan Supreme Court, in 1889, ruled in her favor noting that the customs of the Chippewa permitted polygamy and, in this case, those customs trumped Michigan’s law.  Laughing Whitefish is the name of a book about this litigation written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Volker using the non de plume of Robert Traver.
Plaque is located in the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee

17. Protecting the Impaired: 1918/1993 / No

In 1913, the Michigan State legislature enacted a law authorizing the sterilization of mentally impaired persons confined to state institutions.  The managers of a state supported home for the impaired in Lapeer sought to sterilization a resident whose guardian objected.  In 1918, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the 1913 sterilization law unconstitutional.
Plaque is sited in the Old Lapeer County Courthouse in Lapeer

18. Rose of Aberlone:  1887/1993 / No

This is a famous case that established a precedent in contract law.  Almost every person who entered a law school and took a course in contracts could write a paragraph about this famous animal.  Hiram Walker, the very prosperous Detroit and Winsor investor, imported and breed Angus cattle.  He had a farm in Ontario where he raised these animals.  Those who were barren were dispatched to another farm he maintained in Greenfield, Michigan.
Theodore Sherwood was a prosperous Plymouth banker who wished to enter the cattle business.  He visited Walker’s Canadian farm and failed to find an animal to purchase.  Walker told him about the heifers he had on his other farm.  Sherwood decided to purchase a presumably barren cow for $80.  The animal was named Rose 2nd of Aberlone.  Walker agreed to have it delivered.  However, before the delivery was made, Hiram Walker found out the animal was pregnant.  A pregnant Angus cow had a market value of $800 to $1000.  Walker refused to deliver the now valuable cow and so Sherwood sued.  The circuit court in Wayne County ruled that if both parties to the contract were ignorant about the object being sold, the contract could be invalidated setting a precedent for such decision.
Plaque is located within Kellogg Park in Plymouth

19. Emelia Schaub: 1926/1994 / No

This woman from Leelanau County graduated from the Detroit College of Law in 1924.  Two years later she became the first woman in the country to successfully defend a defendant in a murder case.  In 1936, she became the first women in Michigan to win an election to become a county prosecutor.  She served six terms and was instrumental in returning ownership of lands in Leelanau County to the Ottawa and Ojibwa tribes.
Plaque is sited on the outside of the Leland County Courthouse in Leland

20. Mount Clemens Pottery: 1946/1994

In 1938, Congress enacted and President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act.  For the first time, this law established a minimum wage of 40 cents per hour, called for time and one-half for hours worked beyond 40 per week and sought to mandate a maximum 44 hour work week.  Children under 14 were prohibited from employment.  Those under 16 could not work during normal school hours and children under age 18 were prohibited from working in dangerous occupations such as coal mining.  The law did not apply to agriculture or domestic service.
Employers were upset and argued that the government had no constitutional authority to mandate how private entrepreneurs ran their own business or paid their employees.  Furthermore it seemed to infringe upon a workers right to contact with an employer.  Other employers sought other ways to get around the minimum wage law.
The Mount Clemens Pottery Company required its employees to punch in and out for an eight hour day.  Management observed that it typically took 14 minutes for an employed to get from the time clock to the actual operation of a machine.  So they paid workers for 7 hours and 46 minutes for each eight hour shift.  Workers sued.  Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy from Harbor Beach and Detroit wrote an authoritative opinion in 1946 unambiguously upholding the constitutionality of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Plaque is located on the riverfront Gazebo near the Municipal Building in Mount Clemens.

21. Pond’s Defense  1860/1995 / No

Augustus Pond was a fisherman in the Lake Michigan settlement of Seul Choix near Gulliver, Michigan.  Three local men had been harassing Mr. Pond for days.  One night these men came to his house’ began tearing down Mr. Pond’s net house and physically attacked a man working for Pond.  Pond yelled at them saying “Leave or I’ll shoot.”  They did not leave but continued their violence.  Pond shot killed Isaac Blanchard.  Pond was arrested, charged with manslaughter, convicted and sentenced to a decade of hard labor.  Upon appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the conviction helping to establish the principal that using force for self-defense in Michigan is not a crime.
Plaque is sited on City Hall on Mackinac Island

22. Ending of Jim Crow   1927/1995/No

In 1885, the Michigan legislature enacted a civil rights statute that prohibited racial discrimination in places of public accommodation.  Eighty years later, Congress passed a similar law.  After many African Americans came to Michigan to take jobs in the defense industry during World War I, numerous Michigan businesses adopted those Jim Crow practices that were widespread in the South.  An African American dentist in Grand Rapids, Emmett Bolden,   purchased a ticket at that city’s Keith Theater and sought to sit in the main floor section.  He was told that since he was a black man he could sit in the balcony but not on the main floor.  At that time such balconies were colloquially called “Nigger Heavens.”   Dr.  Bolden sued pointing out that the 1885 Michigan statute banned such racial discrimination.  His lawyer, Oliver Green, was the first African American admitted to the Kent County bar.  The local court upheld the theater’s right to discriminate but the Michigan Supreme Court strongly upheld the equal accommodations statute in their 1927 ruling.
Plaque is on a wall near Old Kent Bank Tower in Grand Rapids

23. Conveying Michigan   1831-1834/1996 / No

Michigan became a territory in 1805 when the federal Congress separated it from Indiana.  In the following years, the federal government signed treaties with many tribes in Michigan territory.  In return for various benefits and promises, the Native Americans surrendered their claims upon land in Michigan territory.  Thus the federal government came to own much of the land in the present stateWhen the Treaty of Chicago was signed in 1821, the Pottawatomis and other tribes in southwest Michigan surrendered their claims to a substantial swath of what is now Michigan.  After the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, migrants from the east began arriving in Michigan in substantial numbers.  In 1831, the federal government’s land office in White Pigeon opened and began selling land for $1.25 per acre.  There were a great number of eager purchasers who bought the land and to settled in Michigan helping to propel its becoming a state in 1837.
The plaque is located on the former land office building which is the oldest standing building in southwest Michigan and one of the oldest in the state.
Plaque is located on the former U. S. Land Office Building in downtown White Pigeon

24. Murphy’s Dissent in Korematsu  1944/1996 /Yes

On February 19, 1942 President Roosevelt issued Executive Order #9066   giving the United States military the right to round up and intern, without writ of habeas corpus, persons deemed by the military or Department of Justice as a threat to the security of the nation.  This order was used by the military to take into custody and intern in camps about 112,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who live in the West Coast states.  A very few Germans and Italians were also taken into custody and held; most of them very briefly.  Litigation followed.  In 1944, the Supreme Court, in Korematsu, ruled that President Roosevelt had the authority to order suspension of the writ of habeas corpus to intern the Japanese.  Supreme Court Associate Justice Frank Murphy, from Harbor Beach and Detroit, strongly dissented and argued that the Constitution did not permit the legalization of racism.   During the Reagan Administration in 1988, the federal government formally apologized for the consequences of Executive Order #9066 and paid indemnity to those interned who were still alive or to their direct descendants.
Plaque is located outside Frank Murphy’s ancestral home in Harbor Beach

25. Striking Racial Covenants  1947/1997 / Yes

In 1944, Orsel and Minnie McGhee purchased a home in Detroit at 4626 Seebalt.  He worked at the Detroit Free Press and she was employed by the postal service.  They were African-Americans and had purchased a home with a restrictive covenant.  After the end of World War II, the neighborhood association challenged them arguing that since there was a restrictive covenant on the property they must move away.  The local court and the Michigan Supreme Court agreed citing the US Supreme Court’s 1922 Corrigan v. Buckley decision that upheld the use of restrictive covenant.  The Detroit chapter of the NAACP defended the McGhees and carried the case into the federal courts.  In Shelley v. Kramer the Supreme Court agreed to hear the issue of the constitutionally of restrictive covenants by joining the McGhee litigation with similar suits arising in St. Louis and Washington, D. C.  The Supreme Court eventually ruled that restrictive covenants did indeed violate the constitution and, although they could be written into a deed,   neither state nor federal courts could enforce them.
Plaque is located outside near the entry door of the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit

26. Milo Radulouich and the Fall of McCarthyism  1953/1998 / No

Milo Radulovich was born in Detroit in 1926 to Serbian born parents.  He joined the Air Force and became a Lieutenant in the Air Force reserves.  It the era of Joseph McCarthy’s bitter campaign against people with unorthodox views, anyone who had associated with Communists or even visited Russia was considered by many as a possible subversive.  The Air Force learned the Milo Radulovich’s father read Serbian language newspapers, one of them possibly supportive of the Communist regime in Yugoslavia.  Those investigators also found out that his sister was associated with some “left leaning” groups.  The Air Force sought to take away his commission as an officer.  He protested.  Hearings were held but he lost his commission.  At this point, the national press took up his issue.  The famous Edward R. Marrow pointed out the apparent injustice.  Two Michigan lawyers took up the cause and, eventually, Milo Radulovich had his commission restored.  This was viewed as a considerable success in the fight against McCarthyism.
Plaque is sited on the Detroit College of Law Building on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing

 27. Judge Henry Hart, “Committee of One”  1972/1999 / No

Henry Hart began his legal career in Midland and spent 38 years on the municipal and district court benches.  As a traffic court judge, he developed a strong interest in traffic safety.  He realized that, unlike other states, Michigan did not use “No Passing Zone” signs.  He is the father of such signs in Michigan.  Originally, there were objections to posting these signs but his strong and consistent effort led to the placing of these distinctive pennant shaped signs on Michigan highways by 1983.
Plaque is placed in the Midland County Court House in Midland

 28. Mary Coleman: Pioneer, Advocate, Woman   1972/2000 / No

Mary Stallings was born in Texas in 1914 but her family moved to Washington, D. C. when she was a young child.  She graduated from the University of Maryland when she was only twenty and earned a law degree from George Washington University in 1939.  That year she married Creighton Coleman and they moved to Battle Creek where she practiced law. In 1960, she became a probate and juvenile judge in Calhoun County.  In 1972 she became the first women to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court.  Seven years later she was selected by her peers, to become the Chief Justice of that court meaning she was the first woman to serve in that august position.  This plaque commemorates her many decades of service to the State of Michigan.
Plaque is sited at the McCamly Plaza Hotel in Battle Creek

29. President Gerald R. Ford, Michigan Lawyer  1974/2004 / No

Gerald R. Ford, from Grand Rapids, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1935 after being a member of two national championship football teams.  He then attended Yale where he earned his law degree in 1941.  Immediately after that, he returned to Grand Rapids where he established a legal practice with his University of Michigan classmate, Phillip Buhen.  He became active in Republican Party politics in Kent County and was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1948 rising to the post of minority leader.  In 1973, Vice-President Spiro Agnew pleaded nolo to charges of criminal tax evasion and money laundering.  President Nixon selected Gerald Ford to serve out Spiro Agnew’s term.  In August, 1974; Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency and Gerald Ford was sworn in as the nation’s chief executive.
Plaque is located within the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids

30. Freedom Road   1847/2005

Sanctuary cities are now new.  In the late 1820s, three townships in Cass County were settled by Quakers- Calvin, Penn and Porter townships.  Quakers – and Methodists – were known in the pre-Emancipation era for their very strong opposition to slavery and for the help they offered escaping slaves.  Fugitive slaves leaving Kentucky for freedom in the North or Canada quickly learned about the hospitable Quakers in Cass County.  Some fugitive slaves settled there where they could buy property, vote and be tried by a jury should that be appropriate.  According to federal law, slaves—even if they escaped to Michigan or Canada—were the rightful property of their owners.  Numerous people worked as slave catchers, that is, they searched the North to apprehend fugitive slaves and returned them to bondage.  When slave catchers came to Cass County, Quakers apparently sheltered the fugitive slaves or helped them get to Ontario using the Michigan Central Railroad. 
In 1847, a group of about 30 armed slave catchers came to seek chattel in Cass County.  Quakers sought to protect the fugitive slaves but 9 were taken. At this point, local authorities arrived and took 14 of the slave catchers into custody and then charged them with battery, kidnapping and trespass.  That is, the Quakers sheltered the fugitive slaves but slave catchers came onto their property to retrieve slaves which was, in the view of some, consistent with federal law.
The Barren County court released the fugitive slaves who had been taken, stating that the slave catchers did not have sufficient proof of their ownership.  In the meantime, the Quakers dispatched 45 fugitive slaves to Canada where they would be free.
Subsequently, the owners of some of the fugitive slaves sued, in the Michigan district federal court, contending that seven Quakers abetted the violation of federal laws about slavery.  Some were acquitted but several paid a fine.  In 1850, Congress enacted a Fugitive Slave Law that sought to seriously penalize people such as the Quakers in Cass County.  
Plaque is sited on the south side of the 1899 Cass County Court House in Cassopolis

31. Otis Milton Smith, Trailblazing Leadership   1951 to 1994/2006 / No

Born in Tennessee, Otis Smith served as an Army Air Corp journalist during World War II.  Using the GI Bill, he earned his college and legal degrees and then came to Flint to practice law.  He was appointed to the Michigan Public Service Commission in 1956 and, in 1960, became Michigan’s auditor general.  He was the first African-American to hold those appointments.  In 1961, he became the first of his race to serve on the Michigan Supreme Count but, in 1967, he resigned from the bench to accept an appointment at General Motors.  He became Vice-President and General Counsel for that firm.  He also served as a Regent of the University of Michigan and won numerous awards from legal associations for his trailblazing leadership.
Plaque is sited on the campus of the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

32. Prentiss M. Brown- Father of the Mackinac Bridge   1950/2007

Mr. Brown grew up in St. Ignace early in the 20th century.  He studied law and began his practice in the Upper Peninsula in 1914.  He served as the county prosecuting attorney for a dozen years.  At one point he was obligated to present testimony to the Michigan Supreme Court in Lansing.  It was winter and no boats could cross the Straits of Mackinac.  Apparently he tried to walk or snow show across the ice but he missed his obligation in Lansing.  He then dedicated himself to building a bridge. 
Mr. Brown represented Michigan in the United States Senate from 1936 to 1943.  Then President Roosevelt appointed him to head the Office of Price Administration – the bureaucracy that sought to stave off inflation during World War II.  Mr. Brown returned to St. Ignace and became chair of the Mackinac Bridge Authority.  The $100 million dollar structure was completed in 1957.
Plaque is located in Bridge View Park in St. Ignace

33. Poletown and Eminent Domaine  1975/2008 / No

General Motors opened Detroit Assembly plant on Clark Avenue in Detroit in 1921.  It became the major manufacturing location for the production of Cadillacs.  By the early 1970s, Clark Avenue Assembly was getting old.  In the mid-1970s, General Motors officials approached Michigan Governor Milliken and Detroit Mayor Young asserting that if those leaders could assemble 900 acres in the Detroit area, GM would build a new Cadillac plant on the site.  If not, the plant would be erected in Oklahoma.  Recognizing the disappearance of good blue collar jobs and the need for tax revenue, the governor and mayor set to work.  They identified an area on the Hamtramck-Detroit border.  It contained many very modest workingmen’s home and was populated by a rather low-income older residents, many of them Polish or African-American in heritage.
Many home owners sold their property to the city so that the plant could be built but others resisted.  Soon enough, Ralph Nadar led a nationwide campaign arguing that the largest company in the nation and the governor of one of the largest states and the major of a very large city were forcing elderly low-income residents out of their homes so that General Motors could profit.  Eventually, the cities of Detroit and Hamtramck began using their eminent domain authority to force residents to sell their properties but they met strong resistance.  In 1981, the Supreme Court of Michigan, in a 5-2 decision, ruled that the state’s constitution allowed cities to use eminent domain to take over private property that would be sold to a for-profit concern.  This was one of two decisions that allowed the Hamtramck Assembly plant to be built.  The other was the decision of the Catholic archdiocese to not oppose the closing of six parishes that served the spiritual needs of the residence of what was, by then, known, at the Poletown neighborhood.
The eminent domain land was purchased by GM and the Hamtramck Assembly plant was constructed.  In 2008, the Supreme Court of Michigan reversed their 1981 ruling in Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit and ruled that the Michigan Constitution does not permit the use of eminent domain to obtain privately owned land that will be sold or turned over to a for-profit firm.
Plaque is sited within Zussman Park outside the Hamtramck City Hall

34. From Whisper to a Rallying Cry  1982/2009/Yes

In the early 1980s, vehicle sales plummeted and so Detroit area auto plants laid off and terminated numerous workers.  Many of those who lost their jobs blamed the Japanese imports for their unemployment.  On June 19, 1982; Detroit area resident Vincent Chin and his friends were celebrating his upcoming marriages at a bar in Highland Park.  There were several unemployed auto workers there who presumed that Vincent Chin who ancestry was Chinese, was of Japanese heritage and began taunting him and his friends.  The bouncer threw the auto workers out of the bar but they waited outside.  When Vincent Chin and his party left, the auto workers began attacking them.  They had secured a baseball bat and severely beat Mr. Chin who died four days later.
The assailants were tried before local Judge Kaufmann who appeared to many as sympathetic to the defendants and hostile to the prosecution.  The trial ended with assailant’s given probation and a modest fine.  Federal civil rights charges followed but the trial resulted in no punishment for those who killed Mr. Chin.
As the historical marker proclaims this served as a rallying cry for Chinese activists who realized that there was a great deal of racial hatred in this country and that the courts
could often not always be relied upon to uphold the principals of justice.
Plaque may be seen with the Chinese Community Center, 32,585 Concord Drive; Madison Heights

35. Elk, Oil and the Law  1970s, 2010 / No

In the 1970s, the Pigeon River State Forest was the residence of the largest herd of elk east of the Mississippi.  This forest stretched across Cheboygan, Montgomery and Otsego counties.  It was the largest stretch of undeveloped land owned by the state in the Lower Peninsula.
In the 1970, when the oil producer’s cartel had, briefly, restricted the flow of oil from the Mideast, investors and oil exploration experts pointed out that a great amount of oil and natural gas could be extracted from the land underneath the Pigeon River State Forest.  Environmentalist objected and filed legal actions to block drilling inside the state forest.
In 1979, the state Supreme Court, in West Michigan Environmental Council v. Resources Commission, ruled that wells could only be drilled in the southern one-third of the forest.  Apparently, the elk herd was not disturbed and the oil drilled provided additional energy to consumers.  This is an example of how the State Supreme Court ruling satisfied, to some degree, the desires of both the energy producers and those who wished to protect the environment.
Plaque is located within the Otsego County Courthouse in Gaylord

36. Milliken v. Bradley – Desegregation, Busing and Boundaries  1974/2011 / No

The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision overturned the state-imposed racial segregation of students in the public schools of southern states.  After about a decade, advocates of school integration, especially the legal team of the National Association of Colored People, began to litigate the issue of segregation in public schools where it was not required by law including many of the northern states.  School districts in many large Michigan cities were sued in which the plaintiffs argued that school board policies acerbated segregation and simultaneously contributed to the neighborhood segregation that contributed to school segregation.  Often the plaintiffs won and school boards in northern cities eventually agreed to modest or extensive remedies such as closing all-black schools and sending their students to the formerly largely white schools.
In ____, the NAACP sued the Detroit public school system and the state of Michigan.  They argued that the local school systems, especially since the end of World War II redrew school boundaries, built new schools and used targeted busing to make sure that almost all white children and almost all black children went to segregated schools.  Furthermore, school districts were created and maintained by the state government so the state bore responsibility for the very many suburban districts that had almost exclusively white enrollments and the Detroit city school  district with its mostly African American enrollment. 
Litigation before Federal Judge Herman Roth led to a victory for the plaintiffs.  But what would be the remedy?  Long additional hearing were held and Judge Roth eventually opted for the use of extensive busing such that central city black students would ride buses for eight of their 12 school years to attend formerly white suburban public schools.  Suburban white students would ride buses for four years to attend, typically, formerly black central city school.
This pleased few.  Black parents strongly opposed the idea of their children riding buses for eight years to attend schools in what their perceived as hostile suburbs where they would be in danger frequently.  And white parents protested having their children put on a bus to central city schools that, they believed, were unsafe and inferior.
The matter eventually reached the Supreme Court which overturned the inter-district busing plan.  They upheld the litigation against the city’s school district but argued that the plaintiffs failed to prove that suburban districts and the state government were responsible for the very high level of school segregation that characterized metropolitan Detroit.  The few remaining white students in Detroit would be bused but this failed to substantially reduce segregation.  Prior to the Milliken v. Bradley decision, most Supreme Court decision strongly upheld programs to accomplish the actual desegregatio0n of public schools.  After the Milliken v. Bradley decision, Supreme Court ruling have often upheld defendant school districts who wished to avoid unpopular policies that might mitigate racial segregation.
Plaque is inside the Theodore Levin Federal Courthouse at 231 West Lafayette in downtown Detroit.  

37. Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act  1976/2012 / No

Michigan adopted a new Constitution in 1963.  It reaffirmed the state’s long standing policy of proscribing discrimination on the basis of religious, race, color or national origin.  In 1976, representative Daisy Elliott from Detroit and representative Mel Larsen from Oxford introduced and promoted a bill that would ban discrimination on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex or marital status in employment, housing, public accommodations, public service and education.  Note the important addition of sex, age and marital status.  Governor William Milliken signed this important civil rights bill into law on January 13, 1977.
Plaque is inside the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing.

38. Berrien County Courthouse    1839/2013 / No

The Michigan Territorial legislature, in 1835, drew up the first constitution for the State of Michigan.  It required that Michigan counties establish a system of local courts and provide a suitable facility for those judicial bodies.  Berrien County’s court house is the oldest such edifice in the entire state.  Architect Gilbert B. Avery selected the Greek-Revival style for his creation which was built by local contractor James Lewis and opened for the spring 1839 sessions of Berrien County courts.
Alas, this pleasant and appealing structure is no longer the site of the county’s judicial proceedings.  The county’s voters, in 1894, decided that the seat of their governance should be moved from the small town of Berrien Spring to the larger port, St. Joseph’s. The former court house was, over the years, used for a variety of purposes.  In 1967, the Berrien County Historical Association acquired the old structure and began a seven year program to restore it to its original glory.
Plaque is sited at 313 North Cass Street in Berrien Springs

 39. Governor G. Mennen Williams and the Great Ferris Fire  1929/2014 / No

Woodbridge Nathan Ferris was born in Tioga County, New York in 1853.  He learned to read at an early age and became interested in education.  By his late teen years, he was teaching at local schools.  He enrolled in the Oswego Normal and Training Institution that later became the Oswego campus of the State University of New York.  He met Helen Francis Gillespie who was a student there and they married in 1874.  Then they migrated to Illinois where he taught and then became superintendent of a small public school system.
He apparently became disenchanted with public education.  He and his wife moved to Big Rapids where, in 1884, they founded the Big Rapids Industrial School.  Both of them had been strongly influenced by Professor Harman Krusi at Oswego.  He argued strongly that strictly academic education with its classroom book-learning was not highly effective and that teaching should be done in a hands-on mood.  That is, rather than classroom instruction only, students would learn more effectively if they got specific training doing what they were studying.  The Ferrises incorporated this principal into their school.  In 1885, the name was changed to Ferris Industrial School and, in 1898, to Ferris Institute.  In 1900, it became a privately owned for-profit school with Woodbridge Ferris as the major stock holder.
Mr. Ferris became interested in Michigan politics and, in 1912, was the victorious candidate for governor. He was the first successful Democratic candidate for governor since the financial crisis of 1892.  At that time, governors served two year terms.  He was reelected in 1916 but when he ran in 1920 he was defeated.  However in 1922, the state’s voters elected him to represent Michigan in the United States Senate.  He died late in his first term of service in the Senate.
Ferris Institute had become a non-profit private school in 1923 but was, I believe, still managed by the Ferrises.  In 1949, the leaders of the school, gave the Institute as a gift to the state of Michigan.  At this time, the campus of Ferris Institute was valued at $1.3 million and the enrollment was 1140.  However, as many as three quarters of those students were veteran’s whose education was paid for by the Veteran’s Administration.  There was fear that the state would incur great costs in taking over the school.  Eventually, the legislature passed the Smith-VanderWerk bill and Governor Mennen Williams accepted the gift.  In 1950, the institution became Ferris State College and, 37 years later, Ferris State University.
OK, where does the fire come into this story? In February, 1950—just nine months after the state took over the institution—a devastating fire destroyed almost all of the campus in Big Rapids.  At this point, the University of Michigan and Michigan State pressured to legislature to collect the $268,000 in insurance and terminate Ferris Institute.  Governor Williams, and his allies, took a different approach and decided to fund the rebuilding of a campus in Big Rapids.
Plaque may be found at 1201 South State Street in Big Rapids

40. The Kalamazoo Case: Establishing High School for All  1858/20  /No

The residents and voters of Kalamazoo decided, in 1858, that local tax monies should be used to provide post-elementary education for the city’s young population.  School officials established Kalamazoo Union High School and erected an impressive and large three story building.  In 1873, Kalamazoo residents, apparently upset by burdensome taxes, sued and argued that nothing in the Michigan Constitution gave local authorities to collect tax funds to support education beyond the elementary level.  The litigation reached the state’s Supreme Court the next year.  Writing for a unanimous Supreme Court; Justice Thomas Cooley convincingly argued that no statue nor the state’s constitution prohibited the use of tax funds to established a post-elementary public school.  This established the principle that local school boards could use tax funds for high schools.
I do not know where this plaque was posted.

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